Monday, October 29, 2007

film noir, baby

So. Sweet Enemy and I read the Sin City comic last year and sort of liked it. I really enjoy the whole genre of film noir. Back in July I caught the film and really enjoyed it not even one bit. It took the surface of film noir, sprinkled on some misogyny, basted it in blood put it in a Convoluto brand mixer and forced me to extend a metaphor way too far. I could go farther, but the way I feel about Sin City should be discussed in conversation, not put forth in diatribe.

Anyway. Last night I introduced SE to the wonder that is The Maltese Falcon. This is a fantastic film in or out of the noir genre and I was happy to see it again. The performances are so wonderful with all of the players at the top of their game. Sure, it's filled with the usual Dashell Hammet lingo (after a long soliloquy Bogart's Spade even pauses to ask a stenographer in the DA's office if he's "getting all this, or am I going to fast for you?"), but this dialog is delivered so naturally that it doesn't seem as stilted as it does on the page. I thought it was a bit like watching Olivier do Shakespeare.

And, line for line, there is no cooler cat than Bogart's Sam Spade. Nothing seems to ruffle, him (and the shot where he looks at his shaking hand after bluffing his way out of the Fat Man's apartment it makes him human and even cooler).

Now, I know that Sin City and The Maltese Falcon are two entirely different movies, but their placement withing the film noir universe allow me a contrast. There were many differences, but what struck me was that Sam Spade only once held a gun by its grip and he never fired one. He even mentions how he never carries one but there were "some back at the office". What Bogart does with this part of the Spade character is subtle, but watch for it.

The most telling scenes depict 'the Fat Man's' hired gun: A cocky kid who obviously has a complex. In one scene, he is escorting Sam Spade to the Fat Man's apartment. He walks in front of Spade, hands deep in his overcoat pockets (where he keeps his pistols). As they near the Fat Man's apartment, Spade pulls the gun kid's buttoned overcoat down over his arms like a straightjacket. Then he reaches in and pulls the twin Colt M1911s out and shoves the kid. He holds both guns in one hand, hefting them like they were just paperweights. When they reach the apartment, he just hands them to the Fat Man.

In contrast, later, when the entire cast of baddies (including the incomparable Peter Lorre) are in Spades apartment, the kid stalks around holding both .45s as though he were trying desperately to look as tough as Spade. Spade, of course, later disarms him.

In Sin City, EVERYONE who is anyone has a gun. It's as though Rodriguez was trying to make some sort of a post-modern feminist art-documentary on the use of firearms as phallic replacements and augmentation.

Now, for the record, I own firearms, but I do think that Bogart's spade was tougher and cooler than any gun-toting tough-guy in Sin City. Go rent The Maltese Falcon and watch it. You won't be sorry that you did.

Here's a quicky picture of Sam Spade and Wilmer the gun-kid. I did it during lunch based on a photo I found online. My scanner's still busted, so another digicam shot. That speaks to the bad quality of the image. The poor quality of the linework is all me (this actually really bugs me because I love my pencil drawing of this).

Listening to while posting: Hayden, Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat


Swinebread said...

Oh Yeah, The Maltese Falcon you can’t go wrong there. I’m a little more partial to Casablanca but I think it’s on account of the Dames. ☺ You know I’ve always avoided Sin City for some reason. I had plenty of opportunities to see it. Maybe I’d just feel I’d be disappointed for some reason. But when it comes to true Film Noir your right dialog is the real weapon. Too many guns are the crutches of modern films (unless its a war movie). I think that’s what bugged me about the new Captain America comic. So you want to give the guy a gun OK lets give him a rifle and send him off to war, or if we’re playing up the cop angle slap the pistol to his hip and let him take it out as often as cops do. But don’t play it up as a gimmick. Guns aren’t gimmicks, they’re deadly business.

As for your drawing I like the coats and hats. The line work and shadows work well together almost Buscema like. The subdued color choice is nice too.

AndreZero said...

I think the soft blue works really well with the noir feel. After having typed that I think it sounds like complete nonsense but I think you know what I mean!

I liked the cheesey narration in Sin City and I enjoyed Marv's character. Other than that, I agree, it was all a bit much.

The commentary on the DVD of Once Upon a Time in China has an interesting discussion on guns in movies. They say American's grow up with guns so they don't respect them as much. They use Chow Yun Fat as an example of someone who uses guns in a way that shows respect, despite the fact that he probably fires thousands of rounds in each movie.

LeDidole said...

Thank you for your comment on my blog.
I like your drawing. I think the pencilling is fine but you should try to do some thick n' thin lines in inking, ti would really pimp your artwork a lot. Maybe you should try to look for the work of Jacques Tardi. He has that kind of Film Noir feeling you seem to like.
here is the link to wiki:

LeDidole said...

Sorry the link was cut in my previous post.

LeDidole said...

Arkonbey said...

Swinebread: Man. I totally missed the Cap connection. Makes Sense, though.

Andrezero: I'd call mr. Fat a hypocrite, but he'd probably kick my ass. And I'm used to nonsense from you ;)

Ledidole: you are correct, sir. I will ditch the crowquill and do more with the brush. And M. Tardi is great! But, translations of his work turn out to be rare and very expensive